Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Yellow Submarine

Unavailable to TV and video viewers for years, 1968's much-loved animated Beatles film Yellow Submarine is making its return with a limited theatrical run, soon to be followed by a high-profile video release. But 31 years, countless Beatles retrospectives, numerous advances in animation technology, seismic shifts in fashion, and tens of thousands of music videos later, how does Yellow Submarine hold up? Quite well, thankfully. After A Hard Day's Night and Help!, plans fell apart for a third live-action Beatles film, no doubt in part because the band was slowly starting to fall apart itself. But the idea of The Beatles has always been just as important as The Beatles as a tangible entity, and Yellow Submarine preserves that idea beautifully. Despite not featuring the members of The Beatles in the flesh, or even their speaking voices—or even, at times, convincing approximations of their speaking voices, particularly George Harrison's—Yellow Submarine features The Beatles the public embraced: fraternal, clever, innocent lads destined to save the world through music and love. It's a naïve notion, but an immensely appealing one, and it looks great on the screen. With animation alternately and sometimes simultaneously lovely, imaginative, and crude, Yellow Submarine tells the story of how The Beatles saved Pepperland from the music-hating Blue Meanies, awful creatures who have no use for words like "yes" and "know." Though the playful, pun-laden script is largely enjoyable, with a few dull patches here and there, the many musical sequences (including one never before included in American prints) provide the highlights, capturing something that music videos have largely lost: visuals that enhance the music rather than detract from it. The film itself looks and sounds great, vastly improving on the faded TV and video prints of the past. Though its reappearance can be traced to the fact that there's money to be made off of anything Beatles-related, it's still nice to know that someone has taken the time to preserve Yellow Submarine, and that the vision it presents still seems worth preserving.


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